Biden to speak with Xi on Thursday as relations deteriorate

PResident Joe Biden will speak with Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday amid renewed tensions over Taiwan, according to people familiar with the matter.

The first conversation between the two presidents since March will come at a particularly difficult time for U.S.-China relations: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s staff and security officials are not ruling out a trip to Taiwan early August.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said on Monday that Beijing was preparing “seriously” for the possibility that Pelosi could visit the self-governing island, which China considers part of its territory.

US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said in June that relations with China had likely deteriorated to “the lowest point” since diplomatic relations resumed in 1972. Biden, who is recovering from coronavirus at the White House, is also considering lifting some tariffs. on Chinese imports in an effort to stem rampant inflation.

US officials stressed that Xi’s call would be a continuation of the administration’s efforts to keep lines of communication open to ensure the relationship does not escalate into unintended conflict.

No final decision has been made on a stopover in Taiwan on Pelosi’s trip to Asia next month, according to a person familiar with the details. Pelosi would be the first seated speaker since Newt Gingrich to visit the island.

Beijing immediately vowed to take “resolute and strong” action in response and warned of a “serious impact” on bilateral relations if Pelosi continued on his journey. China also privately warned the Biden administration of a possible military response, the Financial Times reported.

“All the resulting consequences will be borne by the US side,” Zhao said.

Wang Yang, a member of the Politburo Standing Committee, said at a meeting on Tuesday that “no individual or force should underestimate the resolve, will and ability of the Chinese people to defend their national sovereignty and integrity. territorial”.

He also “stressed the importance of upholding the one-China principle”, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

In the United States, lawmakers from both parties have encouraged Pelosi to make the trip, saying not to do so following protests from China would be tantamount to nodding to Beijing.

“If we can allow the Chinese to dictate who can visit Taiwan and who can’t, then we’ve already ceded Taiwan to the Chinese,” said Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, who made his own trip to Taiwan in April. .

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Tuesday night that Pelosi “shouldn’t back down now,” but that she “should make this a bipartisan journey.”

Biden told reporters last week that the US military didn’t think Pelosi’s trip was a good idea, causing consternation in Taiwan. It is unclear whether Pelosi, at the request of intelligence and defense officials, will decide not to travel.

The president provoked China in May by promising to defend Taiwan militarily. After declaring that US policy towards Taiwan “has not changed at all” at a press conference in Tokyo, he later replied “yes” when asked if the United States would act “militarily” to defend the island in the event of a Chinese attack.

White House officials later backtracked on that remark, saying the president was only promising US aid to help Taiwan defend itself in the event of hostilities.

Traders remained calm ahead of the expected call, with the Taiwan dollar’s one-month implied volatility falling to 4.98 on Tuesday, the lowest since Feb. 25. to stage a conflict at this point,” said Stephen Chiu, head of Asia FX and rates strategist at Bloomberg Intelligence.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that the Biden-Xi session would include a strong agenda, though tariffs were unlikely to be among the issues.

“I don’t think that would be a major talking point with President Xi unless or until he makes a decision,” Kirby said of the duties. The two will talk about tensions over Taiwan and ways to manage competition between the two biggest economies, he said.

The White House has threatened Beijing with consequences if China helps Russian President Vladimir Putin in his war in Ukraine. So far, US officials said they had seen nothing that would amount to material support.

US plans to remove tariffs

Biden aides say he is set to decide whether to remove some of the tariffs President Donald Trump has imposed on about $350 billion in Chinese imports.

Some advisers have pushed for the move to help dampen inflation that is at its highest level in four decades. Others, including unions, say it would have little impact on price pressures and give up influence in talks with Beijing.

Biden has repeatedly pledged to be the most pro-union president in US history, and Democrats are counting on the support of working people in November’s midterm elections that will determine whether the party retains Congressional control.

“The president is still thinking about it,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” show on Sunday. “You know, it’s a big decision.”

Xi sent Biden a note last week wishing him a speedy recovery from Covid-19. The Chinese Communist Party is expected to hold its national rally this fall which should give Xi a third term defying previous ones.

With the help of Billy House

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